Adolf 5: 1945 and All That Remains by Osamu Tezuka: B+

From the back cover:
As American B-29s mercilessly bombard the city of Kobe, childhood friends Adolf Kaufmann and Adolf Kamil are finally reunited. But their love for the same woman threatens to break the last tenuous thread of friendship between them.

While Hitler spends his final days in Berlin, far away in Japan, the fate of the documents revealing the secret of his heritage is sealed forever. Then, over a quarter of a century after D-Day, the two Adolfs cross paths again—this time in Israel—but the gulf between them has only widened with time. Will the once staunch childhood friends make peace with each other before it’s too late?

Against the backdrop of the final days of World War II, the suspenseful resolution of Adolf‘s various plots plays out. Adolf Kaufmann arrives in Japan to find that the very man he’s been sent to interrogate about treacherous documents is now married to his mother. What’s more, the Jewish girl he sent to safety in Japan is now engaged to his former best friend, Adolf Kamil. While American bombs terrorize the citizens of Kobe, Kaufmann destroys any last shred of sympathy we had for him as his convictions that Germany is always right transform into a maddened zeal to secure that which he believes he deserves, no matter what other people have to say about it.

The key word of my summary paragraph is “suspenseful,” because that’s chiefly what this volume is. There’s more emphasis on wrapping up the story than on the characters themselves and years pass in the blink of an eye, with the final scenes occurring in 1983. Increasing the scope in this way does, however, emphasize the difference between leaders and regular citizens. The terrified Japanese people had surrendered long before their government actually did, for example, while Kaufmann was unable to give up on the Nazi cause after Germany’s defeat. Those who had joined without qualm were the first to walk away, whereas he, who had struggled so hard to stifle his own beliefs and buy into the Jew-hating rhetoric, was left clinging to the Nazi ideals the most tightly. “I gave up everything for this,” he half-exults, half-laments, when he finally succeeds in locating the sought-after documents.

I do love that the documents, subject of so much pain and misery, finally come to light at a moment where they are utterly useless. So much effort has been expended on locating them and, in the end, they’re simply handed back to Toge because they’re not worth anything anymore. It was all futile and, in the end, I think Tezuka is making exactly that same point about war in general, and this war in particular.

I’d love to see Adolf reissued in a swanky new VIZ Signature format, perhaps split into two omnibus editions. It’s not hard to come by as it is, but it’s definitely an unforgettable manga that deserves to be back in print.

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  1. Adolf hit a very personal point for me, as my maternal grandfather escaped the Nazis by going to Kobe, Japan, and eventually joining the Mirrer Yeshiva in Shang-Hai. I would not be around if it hadn’t been for the Jewish community of Kobe and the Japanese Ambassadors who strived to save the very people their allies tried to exterminate.

    The 5th volume was especially triumphant and bittersweet. Adolf Kaufman becomes irredeemable in the readers’ eyes, despite his many, many opportunities for redemption. Tezuka took his character to an unbelievable extreme: joining Palestinian terrorists, and even marrying a non-Aryan woman (what happened to his Nazi ideals there? Or did he ever really believe them? Perhaps the violence and hate instilled in him became his only crede?)

    The reminder that war continues to haunt humanity, despite the damage it causes, at the end of the series is an apt one for our time.
    I’d love to see this re-released, and I think it would be a great move on Viz’s part, seeing how Tezuka love has spread throughout English-reading manga fandom in the last couple years, and I stll can’t find a volume 1 of Tezuka available.

    • Thank you for sharing your personal connection with Adolf. I think you hit upon it exactly with Kaufmann, in that he is finally made irredeemable, after being someone readers could still find sympathetic even while committing atrocities. That’s a good point about his wife, too. It seems to me that hating Jews became his main passion, and not strictly Aryan purity, which, of course, he himself could never achieve.

  2. Two omnibus books would be too thick to carry around. It’s partly why I think Vertical’s re-released Ode no Kirohito into two volumes.

    It would be better if they went with the French versions, which released it as four volumes (thankfully negating the annoying conclusion at the 2nd volume, which was quickly wrapped up at the beginning of the 3rd volume of the American version) Not to mention the French books had tons of additional historical references that explained much of the history in the background.

    Of course, we would lose the original introductions in the Viz versions, but at least we would get covers that matched the interior artwork.

    • Yeah, those covers are pretty strange. It’s only now occurred to me that the guy on volume 5 is supposed to be PLO-era Adolf Kaufmann.

      Losing the introductory essays would be a shame, though. The one by Gerard Jones in this volume spoke in great detail about paneling and character design and gave me a lot to think about as I read.

  3. thanks for reviewing this. it’s one of my favorites. i love huge books, the thicker the better. i can carry a big book…

    i hope it is reprinted although i have the versions with the horrible covers already.

    • Thanks for the comment! I have to admit that big books have always held a certain allure to me, especially as a kid when the length of the book you’d just finished was something to boast about! (Or perhaps that was just me…)


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